Letter from Sarah Biser to Irit Kohn Regarding International Holocaust Day, January 27, 2016

January 27 – Today is International Holocaust Day and is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Red Army; it is a very significant day for us all.  Our board member, Sarah Biser, who is travelling to Auschwitz with her husband wrote the very moving letter (attached) which I thought members of the board would find it of interest.


The last time we wrote to this group, Bob and I were volunteering on an army base near Tel Aviv as Israel defended itself last summer against thousands of missiles and 30+ attack tunnels from Gaza.

Yesterday, we were in Paris, visiting friends who live down the street from the Hyper Cacher, where – two weeks ago – a terrorist killed Jews buying food for shabbat dinner, shortly after the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Today, now, we are on a Lufthansa plane to Krakow for the WJC (World Jewish Congress) Commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz. The plane is filled with survivors and their families, people like us, and journalists from around the world coming to cover the event — one of the “Shoah” planes.

Those who are touched by the Holocaust in any one of millions of tragic and devastating stories grew up thinking that existential wars against the Jewish people would be no more.  Very painfully, we know the threat remains, and seems to be growing, not receding.

Our friends and others in Paris told us that the conversation in every Jewish home in France is – Should we stay?  Should our children stay?  Will it get worse? The answers are difficult and painful.

And so our volunteer work this past summer as older adults was very much connected to the European and specifically German world that my mom, then a teenager, escaped from before the doors slammed shut after Kristallnaught.

No, seventy plus years after my parents’ escape from Europe, we are on a plane to Krakow – where a few hundred survivors and their families, over 800 journalists, more than a thousand people like me, Bob and Gerry Platt (a dear friend), 40 heads of state (although not from the US), and those of celebrity status like Steve Spielberg and others.

One may ask, why? Why so many people? Why yet another event? Can anything more possible be written about this story?  Perhaps enough is enough?

And even a different perspective, as a colleague recently said to me, – “Can’t You People just get over it?”

The answer is no, we can’t, we won’t — and neither should anyone else.  So, the commemoration is not just about the past, but very much about informing the future.

The annihilation of our people almost occurred. We don’t need more monuments, more museums to memorialize those we lost and the future that will never be.

We do need to ensure that continuing attempts to annihilate the Jewish people and any other group of people are taken seriously and stopped dead in their tracks.

As someone far wiser than I said,

“We should take more seriously the threats of our enemies than the promises of our friends.”

So, along with most others this weekend, on one of many Shoah planes to Krakow/Auschwitz – we are not here to make history, but to spend time in an awful place and  hear about a barbaric and savage period from those who were there, and to tell those who are listening that this stain on humanity must not happen again.

Sarah and Bob